Modeling hydrologic and water quality extremes in a changing climate: A statistical approach based on extreme value theory



[1] Although information about climate change and its implications is becoming increasingly available to water utility managers, additional tools are needed to translate this information into secondary products useful for local assessments. The anticipated intensification of the hydrologic cycle makes quantifying changes to hydrologic extremes, as well as associated water quality effects, of particular concern. To this end, this paper focuses on using extreme value statistics to describe maximum monthly flow distributions at a given site, where the nonstationarity is derived from concurrent climate information. From these statistics, flow quantiles are reconstructed over the historic record and then projected to 2100. This paper extends this analysis to an associated source water quality impact, whereby the corresponding risk of exceeding a water quality threshold is examined. The approach is applied to a drinking water source in the Pacific Northwest United States that has experienced elevated turbidity values correlated with high streamflow. Results demonstrate that based on climate change information from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report, the variability and magnitude of extreme streamflows substantially increase over the 21st century. Consequently, the likelihood of a turbidity exceedance increases, as do the associated relative costs. The framework is general and could be applied to estimate extreme streamflow under climate change at other locations, with straightforward extensions to other water quality variables that depend on extreme hydroclimate.